‘Charges politically driven’

PETALING JAYA: An expert on South-East Asian politics and security has described the charging of three extremists linked to the 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 Jakarta attack as a “sudden move” that was politically motivated by the previous Trump administration to make life difficult for his successor.

It was an “intentional hand grenade thrown to the incoming

Biden administration, ” said Prof Dr Zachary Abuza (pic) of the National War College in Washington DC.

“I think it is clear that some in the Trump administration rushed to convene a trial for the three to cause a real headache for the Biden administration, ” he said.

News emerged on Friday that US military prosecutors had filed formal charges against Indonesian militant Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, and Malaysians Mohammed Nazir Lep and Mohammed Farik Amin, who were top aides of Hambali.

They had been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the past 14 years.Prof Abuza said former US president Barack Obama had tried to get countries to take back their nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay, while preparing military tribunals for a handful of high-value targets.

Few were brought to trial because of the legal complications, he said.

Trump never had any interest in shutting down the Guantanamo detention centre or bringing the detainees to trial, Prof Abuza added.

The Pentagon in a statement on Thursday said the charges against the trio included conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, destruction of property and accessory after the fact, all in violation of the law of war.Prof Abuza said this announcement was made before Biden’s team at the Department of Defence was either confirmed or ratified.

“I have no evidence that the Biden team knew this was even in the works, ” he said, adding that military tribunals for civilian terrorism suspects had questionable legality.

He said the Bush administration did not want to try terrorism suspects in the federal court system or let them touch US soil, where they would be entitled to constitutional protections (even as foreigners).

“So, they came up with the designation of ‘illegal enemy combatants’ and decided that they would be held at Guantanamo Bay (not US territory) and tried under a military tribunal, which has lower evidentiary standards and a jury comprising servicemen, not civilians, ” he said. He said this had raised legal challenges such as why civilians are being charged and tried in a military court and the issues of what evidence could be used against them, as many of the high-value targets were subjected to torture.

There is no way any evidence gained from torture should be admissible in any court, he said.

“If this military tribunal process was not fraught with problems and legal challenges, why has it taken years to bring these guys to trial? It was a tragic mistake to have not tried these people in federal courts from the very start, ” he said.

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